Prospective Students


 Who should contact the CSD?

Any student with documented or suspected disabilities, such as physical, medical, sensory, mental health or learning disabilities, is encouraged to come in and speak with a Disability Access Advisor. Even if you are not determined to be eligible for academic accommodations and/or disability related services, we can direct you to helpful resources around campus or within the university community.

Are accommodations automatic for students with disabilities?

No. To be recommended for academic accommodations, students are responsible for identifying themselves to the CSD each term. Students must provide relevant professional, medical or psychological documentation in order to qualify for registration and access to accommodations and services. Once documentation is provided it will be reviewed by a Disability Access Advisor, and based on the review of this material and interview with the student, recommendations for accommodation will be developed. 

 Who is eligible to receive disability related accommodations and services?

 All students who have been accepted to SFU, are registered for classes and provide documentation that meets the CSD’s documentation guidelines. The CSD makes its services available to students with a range of physical, psychological, neurological, and chronic and temporary medical disabilities. According to the SFU Access Policy for Students with Disabilities, a student with a disability is a person who:

  • Has been diagnosed by an appropriate professional as having: a mental health impairment; physical impairment; neurological impairment; learning disorder; or sensory impairment, any/all of which may be permanent or temporary and is likely to continue and may significantly interfere with educational pursuits; AND
  • Experiences functional restrictions or limitations in their ability to perform the range of life's activities; AND
  • May experience attitudinal and/or environmental barriers that hamper their full and self-directed participation in life.

For descriptions of common disabilities covered by the CSD, please view our Definitions webpage.

 Does SFU have a structured disabilities "program"?

No. There are no academic or learning programs specifically designed for persons with disabilities at SFU.  Rather, the University seeks to accommodate otherwise qualified students so that they have equal access and opportunity to engage in any and all SFU offerings.  Accommodations are intended to provide equal access and ‘level the playing field’ of the university environment by offsetting the limitations posed by a disability. 

I have a physical disability. How accessible is SFU?

It is the University’s commitment to, where possible, make all programs and courses accessible to people with disabilities. If a particular program or course is scheduled for a venue that is not fully accessible to a participating student, it is SFU’s policy to relocate such events to accessible facilities that meet the needs of the individual student. The CSD works closely with students to attempt to ensure that their residence halls and classrooms meet their access needs. Prospective students and their families visiting the campus may arrange for an access tour.

Physical Access Guide for the Burnaby and Harbour Centre Campuses PDF download.

Is there a special admission process for students with disabilities?

No. SFU evaluates all university applications without regard to disability status. All students must meet basic eligibility requirements and any specified admission criteria. Admission to the university is competitive and when you apply, admissions staff will evaluate only your past academic performance to determine whether you are ready for SFU and the academic challenges of university.

That having been said, the presence of a disability may present unique challenges that can have an impact on a student's grades.  The University acknowledges that special consideration of performance in the light of such challenges may be warranted.  The University admits approximately 10% of incoming students under the banner of “Diverse Qualifications”.  You may wish to consider applying under the regular process, as well as through the DQ process.

Will my disability affect my application and admission process?

SFU makes admission decisions using academic criteria that do not consider an individual's disability. SFU will not impose admission or eligibility criteria that screen out or tend to screen out individuals on the basis of their disability, unless such criteria are necessary for the provision of the program, service or activity being offered. Students with disabilities desiring to enroll in any program, service or activity of SFU must be able to meet the minimal academic standards of SFU as well as the particular school, program, service or activity to which admission is sought.

Should I disclose my disability status on the university admission application?

The decision is entirely up to you, and will not affect your eligibility to register with the CSD or receive services. Decisions around disability disclosure are personal.

What if I can’t attend SFU as a full-time student?

Services offered by the CSD are available to all students with disabilities enrolled at SFU, including part-time students. However, if a partial course load is necessary due to limitations related to a disability, you should discuss this with a Disability Access Advisor. If it is deemed appropriate by the CSD, and does not conflict with the essential elements of the specific program, we can write a statement for the university granting you full-time equivalency for eligibility requirements.

When should I identify myself to the CSD and request service?

Because of the time involved in the disability review process, we encourage you to contact us as soon as you have been admitted to SFU. If you wait until you are enrolled in classes to make your initial contact, the start of any services for which you may be eligible will be delayed until the review process has been completed.

How do I register with the CSD?

What documentation will I need to provide to the CSD?

First, it must be determined whether or not you are eligible for services. In order for your status to be reviewed by the Disability Access Advisor, you must fill out the Application for Services Form AND provide supporting documentation from a regulated health practitioner who is qualified to verify your disability. Please note that there are specific Verification forms for different disabilities and you are required to submit the correct form of documentation for the type of disability for which you are requesting services. All details are available in the Documentation section of the website. Prior to the start of classes, contact the CSD to set up an intake appointment with a Disability Access Advisor to review your registration and the accommodations process.  The process of registering with the CSD for accommodations in a given term must be completed by the end of Week 10.  This ensures that there is reasonable time for instructors to review and provide feedback about accommodations, and for the CSD to make the necessary arrangements leading up to the final exam period. 

In order for the CSD to support a request for academic accommodations, you must provide documentation of a disability from a regulated health practitioner who is qualified to diagnose the condition. The type of documentation that students are required to provide for the CSD depends on the nature of their disability and the ways in which it affects academic performance. See Documentation Guidelines for Students with Disabilities for complete, disability-specific information.

All documentation must be current (generally, no older than three years) and must include:

  • A diagnosis of a specific disability that causes a barrier to learning
  • A description of present symptoms, their severity and a prognosis for the disability
  • A statement that describes the functional impact of the disability on the student’s ability to meet the demands of a university environment

What do I do if I have a temporary disability?

If you have a temporary disability, such as an injury that requires the use of a wheelchair or otherwise affects your mobility or daily functioning on campus, the registration procedure and process to apply for accommodations is the same as with all other students. You must fill out an Application for Services Form and the appropriate Verification of Disability Form, and schedule an intake appointment with a Disability Access Advisor.

Please see the Documentation Guidelines for Students with Disabilities for a description of the type of documentation that will be needed to support your temporary disability and qualify you to receive accommodations and services.

What accommodations and services are available through the CSD?

A variety of accommodations may be provided to students who have registered with the CSD. Eligibility depends on the nature of the disability, as determined by professional documentation and in consultation with a Disability Access Advisor, as well as the essential elements of the course or program.  Accommodations and services may include, but are not limited to:

Class Accommodations

  • The use of assistive listening devices such as an FM or Infrared system
  • Priority seating
  • Opportunity to audio record lectures
  • Aide in class, such as a sign-language interpreter, attendant, or Communication Access Real Time (CART) captionist
  • Note-taking assistance in class
  • Written material (overheads or notes) provided in advance
  • Textbooks or reference articles in audio or in other alternate formats (e.g., larger type, PDF format, e-Text, or DAISY)

Exam Accommodations

  • Extra time for exams
  • Breaks without penalty 
  • Allowances made for spelling or grammatical errors
  • Environment with reduced distraction - e.g., writing an exam in a separate room
  • Access to a reader or scribe
  • Use of a calculator
  • Use of a computer for essay exams

Other Services

  • New student orientation
  • Access to stations in the library equipped with computers and adaptive software
  • Academic, career and developmental advising and/or referral
  • Assistance with compensatory learning strategies
  • Access to quiet study rooms in the library
  • Parking for persons with disabilities
  • Assistance in making a class physically accessible for students with mobility or other physical impairments

Does the CSD provide tutoring services under its accommodation policy?

No: tutoring services are not offered through the CSD. However, any tutoring that is provided by the University and is available to all students (e.g., Writing Labs, Library tutorials, tutors sponsored by various departments) must be reasonably accessible to students with disabilities. The CSD can also assist in locating a tutor for students who have their own resources to pay for personal tutoring. All tutoring arranged through the CSD must comply with the University’s published standards regarding Academic Integrity.  Tutors arranged through the CSD are typically current SFU graduate students.

Do I have to pay anything to receive academic accommodations?

No: SFU is responsible for providing reasonable academic accommodations at no cost to qualified students registered with the CSD. Please note that personal care providers and attendants, including private tutors, are not covered under this policy.  If you have funding available, however, we can help locate such individuals.

What if I need additional medical support?

SFU and the CSD are not responsible for providing personal healthcare or medical services. CSD staff may be of assistance in locating services. We encourage students with disabilities to work closely with their existing healthcare providers to ensure a smooth transition to university. SFU students can also see qualified medical professionals at Health and Counselling Services.

What types of assistive technologies are available at SFU?

We offer a variety of assistive technologies within academic computer labs, the CSD office and the Bennett Library. This equipment includes:

  • Speech recognition software (i.e., Dragon Naturally Speaking)
  • Screen reading software (i.e., JAWS for Windows, Zoom Text)
  • Screen magnification software (i.e. Zoom Text, MAGic)
  • FM transmitter/receiver system
  • Digital audio recorders
  • SmartPens
  • Text to voice assistive technology (i.e. Kurzweil)
  • a Braille embosser
  • Scanners
  • CCTV (closed circuit television - for text enlargement)
  • Large print dictionary and thesaurus

Please note: Students may also be eligible for a Canada Study Grant for the purchase of adaptive technology through Assistive Technology British Columbia. Contact us for more information.

If I have a disability and received academic accommodations at other educational institutions in the past, am I automatically eligible for the same services once accepted to SFU?

No. Having received disability support at another educational institution does not automatically mean you will be entitled to the same services at SFU. Your eligibility to receive services, and the nature of services provided, are dependent on a number of factors.  Your entitlement must be established with us through appropriate professional disability documentation, the requirements for which may differ from institution to institution.  Entitlement will be established in consultation with a Disability Access Advisor, who will recommend accommodations based on the current functional limitations posed by your disability to academic learning.  While the nature of the accommodations provided to you at other institutions will be considered, post-secondary institutions reserve the right to accommodate as they deem appropriate, so you may well receive one form of accommodation at SFU, but receive a different form of accommodation at another institution. 

I have received disability related services at another academic institution in the past, but I don’t think I will need services at SFU. What should I do?

Requesting accommodations and services through the CSD is optional, but we recommend that even students who don’t think they will need services should go through the process of registering with us anyway. This does not mean that you have to use the recommended accommodations. What it does mean is that if you come to an academic roadblock, you’re already set up to begin use of your accommodations.

If I attend an initial meeting with a Disability Access Advisor at the CSD, does this mean that I must apply for accommodations and services?

No. Our office encourages students to investigate all possible accommodation options and whatever resources are necessary to succeed in university. Visiting aDisability Access Advisor will help you learn about your needs as a student at SFU and what the CSD has to offer, and establishing a file with the CSD will make it easier to access services if you later decide assistance is needed. However, there is no obligation for students to continue seeking registration or accommodations with the CSD if they decide it is not right for them at this time.

Some of my academic requirements in high school were waived due to my disability. Will any requirements be waived for me at SFU?

At the university level, reasonable academic accommodations are designed to offset the effects of a disability by providing equal access, but cannot constitute a fundamental alteration of essential course or degree requirements. Occasionally, course substitutions may be granted on an individual basis depending on the role of the course in the overall degree requirements. This decision would be made by the degree granting department and would be completed on a case-by-case basis following referral from a Disability Access Advisor. Be sure to review the course requirements of the degree you are interested in and discuss any concerns with a Disability Access Advisor.

What are some of the key differences between high school and university for students with disabilities?

The Centre for Students with Disabilities is available to speak with you about the important differences between high school and post-secondary education with respect to services for students with disabilities. Understanding these differences will help to ensure a smooth transition period for you.

First and foremost, high school is a teaching environment in which students acquire facts and skills, and are given lots of direction in a highly structured environment. In contrast, university is a learning environment in which students are responsible for managing their learning needs and goals and applying what they have learned without necessarily being told how to do so.

High School
In high school, teachers or other school personnel identified students who were in need of services, provided assessments and developed Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs) based on these assessments. These plans may have included a modified curriculum, specialized instruction, tutoring, academic accommodations and services of a personal nature. In high school, students’ time is usually structured by others and they can count on parents and teachers to remind them of responsibilities and provide guidance in setting priorities.

In contrast, postsecondary education requires students with disabilities to be much more self-directed about gaining access to the accommodations they need. Students are required to monitor their own progress and communicate their needs to appropriate personnel. While the emphasis in Grades K-12 is on ensuring students’ success, postsecondary disability services is focused on "levelling the playing field" for students with disabilities so that they have equal access and opportunity. In university, students manage their own time and will be responsible for setting priorities and meeting their own learning needs.

Post-secondary education institutions review specific documentation that must be supplied by the student and determine disability-related needs for reasonable academic accommodations on a case-by-case basis. A student may not receive all the academic accommodations they had in high school or at any other educational institution.

What will it take for me, as a student with a disability, to be successful in my transition to university?

While the transition to university can be intimidating, students with disabilities should expect to use accommodations approved by the CSD to remove access barriers to educational opportunities. Academic pressures will continue to persist, as this is a natural aspect of higher education, but should hopefully be close to those experienced by other students. Accommodations are designed to "level the playing field," not to ensure your success – this is entirely up to you. Students should expect to study at least 2-3 hours per week for each class unit, be responsible for maintaining their own schedule and attendance, develop/utilize effective organizational and time management strategies, and use good communication skills with other students, faculty and staff. Students with disabilities are encouraged to work closely with the CSD and other campus resources to attain satisfactory academic progress.  As the academic demands of the university setting are higher than those in high schools, and the level of competition is considerable, it may be important for you to seek assistance through resources such as the Student Learning Commons in order to strengthen your core academic skills.

Who is available at SFU to help me track my academic progress?

Students requesting academic accommodations are typically required to meet with a CSD Disability Access Advisor every term to complete Accommodation Forms and/or Examination Request Forms and discuss their status. Some students choose to meet with CSD staff on a more frequent basis as a means of general academic support, but this is entirely up to the student to coordinate and no follow-up appointments are scheduled automatically. Departmental Academic Advisors are responsible for working with all students for issues related to selecting courses, meeting program requirements, planning courses, etc. Please visit Academic Advising for more information.